President Biden has declared the U.S. is “not seeking — I’ll say it again — we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.
Actions speak louder than words. Biden’s statement of not seeking a new Cold War and a world divided into rigid blocks is laughable. Historically Washington will use a position of strength to force its diplomacy upon other nations. China, on the other hand, tends to do what is best for China. Not what the U.S. wants.
Three Red Lines
China will not back down or buckle on issues contrary to its foreign policy. China has spelled out three red lines for the United States and has warned Washington not to cross them. The three red lines:
1) not challenging China’s political system;
2) not disrupting China’s development; and
3) not interfering in China’s sovereignty issues such as matters in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan
Cold War 1950’s and 60’s
In 1949 Mao Zedong and the communists defeated the U.S. backed Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang), led by Director-general Chiang Kai-shek to take control of China. The U.S. portrayed China under the dictates of Mao as the ultimate rogue state. In the 1950s and 1960s, China was far more radical than its Communist ally, the Soviet Union.
Chairman Mao Zedong’s policies led to the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Beijing also fought two undeclared wars against the U.S., in Korea and Vietnam; it promoted insurgency and revolution in the developing world.
During the 1950s, the President Dwight D. Eisenhower administration put extreme economic and military pressure on Beijing in hopes that Mao would make excessive demands for support from Moscow. Washington’s Cold War narrative was that the US-led international rules-based order must preserve against revisionist states like China and the Soviet Union.
A 1965 Washington memorandum best outlines Washington’s strategy on China. It points to four blocs required to contain China; the USSR (Russia) on the north and northwest, the Japan-Korea front; the India-Pakistan front; and the Southeast Asia front. The U.S. was diligently maintaining an economic and military advantage in these blocs.
Korea and Japan Bloc
Three fronts, identified in 1965, are still maintained by the U.S. The U.S. currently has tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed along the Japan-Korea front. Washington continues to cite the threat of North Korea as justification for the installation of THAAD missile defense systems. However, it is no secret that THAAD is to defend U.S. installations from Chinese retaliation, not a North Korean attack.
Regarding the India-Pakistan front, the U.S. has most recently included India in another attempted anti-China front, the Quad Alliance. The US has armed and backed separatist militants in the Baluchistan, southwest region of Pakistan. These militants have for years attacked Chinese-led infrastructure projects that form the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). An assassination attempt targeting China’s ambassador to Pakistan, in Baluchistan, was aimed at disrupting China’s Belt and Road Initiative against the Chinese.
Southeast Asian Bloc
US-backed anti-Chinese opposition groups’ attempts to seize power in the respective Southeast Asian States have promoted an arc of instability. Dubbed the “Milk Tea Alliance,” the common denominator besides their anti-China agenda is their U.S. government funding funneled through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and adjacent corporate-funded foundations, including Open Society.
Nixon Goes to China
Fifty years ago, in 1971, Henry Kissinger took a secret trip to Beijing. It began a U.S.-China effort to discuss issues that had divided them since the 1949 Communist take-over. The move changed the strategic geometry of the Cold War and proved to be a high point in Sino-American relations. Taiwan was the final stumbling block for the U.S.-Sino diplomatic relationship.
The Kissinger meeting was followed by a President Nixon visit the following year. This diplomatic change created the global conditions for China’s rise. Washington understood that re-establishing ties required moral compromises — such as abandoning Taiwan and toasting Mao.
China expected Washington to break formal ties with Taipei as a condition of Sino-American diplomatic normalization. Nixon was reluctant to give up on Taiwan, but he knew that the success of his 1972 trip depended on U.S. admission that it did not seek “two Chinas or a “one China, one Taiwan solution.”
Outmaneuvering Moscow and winning the Cold War was the greater benefit. The Soviet Union had to contend with two powerful rivals working to counter it. It had a two-front confrontation against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and China.
China pulled away from the Soviet Union driving a dagger into the heart of Moscow’s stagnate socialist model. The Soviet Union would have to contend with two powerful rivals, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and China.
After Mao’s death, the new partnership facilitated reforms. China moved toward capitalism and its relationship with the world changed. China received valuable intelligence, technology, and military goods from the U.S. from close American allies such as Japan. China received aid, trade, and investment.
Many had believed that China would eventually become more democratic as it grew rich, like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. It never happened. A democratic wave swept across the communist world from 1989 to 1991. As the Berlin Wall fell, Germany reunified, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Iron Curtain tumbled, democratically elected governments replaced the communist regimes of Eastern Europe – China chose bullets.
The Tiananmen Square human rights crackdown in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later ended the 1971 marriage of geopolitical convenience between the U.S. and China. The U.S. unipolar moment led them to double down on engagement with China.
Washington believed that the forces of globalization and liberalization would transform China into a more liberal and less brutal regime. China had no interest in being transformed. The inertia of that policy, plus the fact that the U.S. got hooked on trade with China, has pushed Washington in the direction of a new cold war.
Recent U.S. Actions
Washington will keep tariffs and sanctions in place and continue to add additional rounds until Beijing changes its tune on trade and human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. The militarization of the Asia-Pacific will continue to unbalance the power structure in favor of Washington.
To counter China, the U.S. regularly conducts Freedom of Navigation Operations(FNOPs), sailing U.S. Navy warships through waters claimed by China. Then points to the 1982 Law of the Sea of Conventions which provides for certain rights and freedoms and other lawful uses, of the sea, to all nations. (the US is not a signatory)
Washington demands that Beijing backs down on Taiwan and the South China Sea and then ultimately resigns itself to the reality of a permanent American military presence in its backyard. These policies reiterate that normalized relationships will only happen on Washington terms.
The AUKUS and the Quad
The U.S. has inserted itself into otherwise ordinary and long-standing disputes in the South China Sea. To justify the growing naval presence in the region, they have been escalating minor regional disputes into a global conflict. To help advance U.S. foreign policy, encircle and contain China, they have recruited nations into belligerent alliances like the Quad and AUKUS.
Following the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration appears to be reorienting its foreign policy with China. Confrontation with China will most definitely ensue. Leaders from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia launched a new strategic partnership, AUKUS, an alliance aimed at China.
Biden should explain how the AUKUS alliance between the U.S., U.K., and Australia fits his not seeking a new Cold War narrative. Defined as an enhanced trilateral security partnership to foster the integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains will deepen cooperation of security and defense capabilities.
Maybe Biden should be asked to explain how providing Australia with nuclear-powered submarines with offensive attacks and not defensive needs deepens information and technology sharing?
To suggest that AUKUS would protect China’s shipping lanes from China is paradoxical. AUKUS appears to be the primary threat to international commerce. Added physical force will only strangle free trade over the open seas.
Asked about AUKUS, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called it an extremely irresponsible move. Zhao continued, “Seeking [a] closed and exclusive clique runs counter to the trend of the times and the aspirations of countries in the region,” and those sticking to this “outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality… will only end up shooting themselves in the foot.”
In a recent article, Malaysian politician Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said, “You have escalated the threat blasts Australia.” He reports, “this agreement indicates you openly regard China as a possible enemy and that if it comes to the crunch, you might even go to war. Just imagine what war would do to Southeast Asia.”
Hugh White, a former Australian defense official, told the New York Times, “the Australian decision to go this way is not just a decision to go for a nuclear-powered submarine. It’s a decision to deepen and consolidate our strategic alignment with the United States against China.” White added, “This just further deepens the sense that we do have a new Cold War in Asia,” he continued, “and that Australia is betting that in that new Cold War, the U.S. is going to emerge victoriously.”
The QUAD – (United States, Japan, India, and Australia)
Biden boasts that the Quad partnership is to counter China. Their biggest concern is its perceived challenge to maritime security posed by China in the Indo-Pacific region. Beijing has built military installations on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, a global waterway and trade route. Quad members see that as a potential threat to free trade and travel.
In March, the Quad leaders issued a joint statement about the importance of the rule of law [and] freedom of navigation. Clearly about what all four countries consider as China’s illegitimate claims in the South China Sea.
The United States, Japan, India, and Australia presented a united front amid shared concerns about China. Last week, the leaders pledged to pursue a free and open Indo-Pacific region undaunted by coercion. They claim to stand for the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity.
Nations in the region have disputes not only with China but among the other neighboring countries. There is a series of overlapping territorial claims over the South China Sea. Is it presumptuous, or is it predictable that the U.S. would single out China as the bully?